If you are looking to expand your flock, or maybe have some extra cashflow, hatching baby chicks is the way to go. Hatching chicks can be done naturally, but sometimes you may lose more eggs this way. Using an incubator can be a more effective way, especially if you are looking to hatch a large amount at one time.
There are two options when it comes to using an incubator. Your first option would be to buy one at your local co-op or feed store. Usually incubators sell for an average of $40. The price does depend on size, quality and type. This, of course, would be the easiest route, but if you are looking to save some money the other option would be to make your own. There are a variety of ways to do this. The general materials you would need will be a large container to incubate your eggs in(this can be a cooler, a box made out of plywood or even a double lined cardboard box), a steady source of heat(you can use a light bulb, a heating cable or a small commercial heating unit), a thermometer, a pan to keep warm water in, a wire rack to put the right amount of distance between the heat and the eggs, and an automatic egg turner(this is optional) or shoe boxes, or something of the like, to keep the eggs in. Note, if you do not use an egg turner, you must rotate the eggs yourself.
Before you start the incubation process, there are a few factors to be aware of. The incubation process usually takes twenty one days. Sometimes, though, chicks can hatch up to two days later. If some eggs still have not hatch by this time, more than likely the egg is spoiled. You want to be sure the temperature inside the incubator stays at, or very close to 102.5* F. Give the incubator at least two hours to reach this temperature and, also, to make sure it stays close to that temperature. If it drops too much or raises too high, you will need to make some adjustments. This could mean changing your bulb to a different watt, or adjusting the wire rack closer to or further away from the heat source, etc. Also, be sure to always keep the pan full of water so the eggs do not dry out. Turning the eggs 180*, three times a day(beginning on day two), is also necessary. Although, after the eighteenth day, it is not.
When you notice the first egg(s) start to hatch, be sure your pan is full of warm water and try to keep the lid closed as much as possible for the next 12 to 48 hours(approximate time for all the chicks to hatch out). Also, lower the temperature to about 95* F. After the chicks emerge, leave them in the incubator until they are dry and fluffy, with the temperature still at 95* F. After this takes place, you can then place them in a regular cardboard box, or some other similar container with a heating lamp above them.
The chicks are now ready to start feeding on chick starter and begin the growing process out of the shell.